In Ward 34, an impoverished, rural community located about two hours outside of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, the future looks bleak for many. That’s because the district of 30,000 people has some of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS, rape, murder and child-led households in the world. With 45 percent unemployment, children have little hope of ever rising out of poverty. But Josh (’96) and Jamie (Highland ’96) Quarandillo are determined to make a difference through Project Ward 34.
About five years ago, the Quarandillos began coaching the youth of Ward 34 — both in soccer and in life. As a result, many have come to know Christ and are now committed to making a difference in their community. “Some of the boys, who now are young Christian men, are coaching their own teams of children in the community,” says Josh, a former Bethel soccer player. “What started five years ago as developing players has turned into developing coaches.”
Recently the Quarandillos founded Enable Now!, a ministry dedicated to spiritual, economic and leadership development. They knew the program needed to be self-sustaining, so they started a business.
While much is lacking in Ward 34, there is an abundance of sugarcane farming. So when Josh learned of a way to turn sugarcane “trash” (what is left over after the harvest) into charcoal to be burned on a fuel-efficient stove, he jumped on the idea. “The vision is to get the stoves into 1,000 homes in the community and begin selling our charcoal as the fuel for those stoves.”
It’s a practical process that could prove to be sustainable. “As the charcoal business becomes profitable, we will be able to employ some of our disciples and pay them the proper wages they need to provide for their households, pay for their education and fund their own ministries and community development projects,” Josh says.
The Quarandillos hope to raise funds for capital that will help establish self-sufficient small businesses. And they continue to train up disciples through soccer, a sort of universal language in South Africa. “Our desire is to change the impoverished world one community at a time.”
In July, the men’s soccer team, led by head coach Thiago Pinto (’05, ’07), partnered with Enable Now! on a task force to South Africa. They worked with the Quarandillos, coaching soccer and building relationships with young people, as well as speaking at school assemblies, visiting orphanages and assisting teachers at primary schools. They created the following video to share the highlights of their trip: